Purchasing eBooks Slides from Sue Polanka over at No Shelf Required
ALA Digital Supplement - Check out the document to read more on eBooks in libraries, statistics, info and more… Good read, it’s a start for understanding challenges and seeing where things are at…
So over at the Digital Shift you can read the full article, I won’t bother to go through the whole thing. I think the whole idea is and will be a failure causing nothing more than larger rifts and a greater escalation of animosity between pubs and libs. Argue against if you want, but trust me, anyone who says they are both playing nice and really striving hasn’t heard of the cat and mouse approach to things.
What I want to do is look at the 4 demands the libraries are making, because some of them are just plain wonky, I’ll explain why.
1. Search and browse a single comprehensive catalog with all of a library’s offerings at once, including all e-books, physical collections, programs, blogs, and donor opportunities. Currently, content providers often only allow searches within the products they sell, depriving users of the comprehensive library experience.
Ok, so we all have heard of the settlement between Hachette, S&S, & HarperCollins have settled with the DOJ, read here. Now many people don’t understand the agency model, the “most favored nation” part that has been brought up or other parts of the eBook business. It hasn’t stopped many from jumping on the DOJ to say way to go, vs the #dojfail twitter tag that people have started to express how bad the department of justice just screwed everybody.
Here’s a down and dirty on the models for eBooks, before agency and after.
I know very simple, more to it, but to be honest, that’s the easy way to describe it. Now people call the agency model price fixing, or that publishers and Apple colluded on the prices, colluded meaning - a secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy: (one definition of it). Problem here is that no collusion was done, it wasn’t a secret, everyone knew about it. So going after everyone like the DOJ based on that, they were wrong from the start. Now the price fixing comments, take a look here, I’ll wait for you to come back. Ok, now what Nate talks about over there and references what Mark from Smashwords, who I barely agree with on anything, is about how airlines prices were fixed. The interesting thing was that if the govt kept prices low, affordable and people were buying like crazy for airlines, why wasn’t that bad? I disagree with Nate on one thought and that is that I do think the companies should be competing on service and if possible, sure price. I’m unique though, I rarely shop amazon, maybe 5 times since the site was up, I don’t buy eBooks there either, I’m not alone, as we know they hold 60% of the marketshare, so 40% are buying from somewhere else. Let’s not get into the other parts of eBook market where amazon is doing nothing; education, comics, etc., that would just make to much sense to talk reality.
Back to the point though, is that if you have to lower your prices and sell at a loss, it is usually because you don’t have the service abilities, the better quality. It’s like saying K-mart rocks because they are cheap; sure and crappy and full of junk. For me and many others I know, they want quality, they want service, I’m willing to pay a higher price for a higher quality and service level, something I have never seen from amazon. It’s like buying made in America vs china, sure it might be cheaper, but in reality it’s usually lower quality, falls apart or some lead paint warning comes down the line. The point is that publishers saying we want the Agency model to price eBooks means that it’s their content, they want to price it. When I was in retail, it was common knowledge that retailers would buy up print titles at steep discounts from the pubs, then price however we wanted, then in 6 months return the print books for money back. Yeah, sounds like a great business plan, anyone seen a waldenbooks or borders around, oh yeah, they failed. Now this wasn’t the cause of the failure, but running a business like that, just dumb all around, it affects everyone and to be honest, many times our books were full price when we got a 55% discount, the books still didn’t sell. Where was the DOJ to look into that realizing customers were getting screwed.
For those that think this is good news, you will be sadly mistaken, because if it holds, which I don’t think it will, Amazon will screw you in the end. Prices will go up, for all you independent authors, do you think amazon will care? They won’t amazon is in this for money, they are no more a champion of books then walmart is a champion of well, anything. What will happen is Apple, Penguin and Macmillan will fight, they will probably win and the other 3 will be happy to jump back on things. Because if it does move forward, more then likely amazon will form a monopoly on things, then you’ll have a lawsuit against them and I hope, if people are smart, a lawsuit against the DOJ for being the idiots who screwed this up.
Even the ABA is baffled by the decision and not sure why the DOJ is in bed with amazon, or basically what kind of back-alley handshake occurred, because it seems as though amazon wrote the settlement details for the DOJ, funny how that works to their benefit. You then have states trying to cash in on the settlement, which after reading that i had to laugh, millions of dollars to be returned to customers. Um, how did you get the number? Exactly what was overpriced, that $.99 eBook was too much, simple DON’T BUY IT. I hate when people whine about how expensive something is, like gas; yet they are the idiot driving down the road in a hummer h2 doing 85 or 90. Drive intelligently, buy intelligently, if you don’t like the price, don’t buy it. Nobody forces anyone to buy anything, last I looked, we all had free will.
The sad thing is in the end, the ones who will actually be hurt by this is the consumer, nothing was actually done to help them. Amazon has had the most favored nation clause in place well before Apple, yet DOJ didn’t say anything about that or the monopolistic stranglehold that amazon has had. Now I’m not just singling out Amazon, no more so then the DOJ did with the publishers and Apple. However, if you are going to say this is an issue and go after some, you can’t leave someone else out of the party you started because you like them.
One final thought on this, is that why eBooks? Is everything else the DOJ has to worry about less important? Maybe the true focus should be on the quality and business practices. People will buy what they like from whom they like, keeping the price the same does one thing, forces a company to step up quality in service and what they offer. If they don’t they go down, look at Sony and eBooks, who buys from them, hardly anyone, if any, why, they missed the boat, quality of devices went down, offering of titles is poor and just an overall bad experience with them. Let us the consumers decide what we want, I don’t need the DOJ telling me this or that, if I don’t like the price, I don’t buy it, plain and simple, or look for something else. Check out Laura Dawson’s blog for some great thoughts on this as well. Now let the comments and I have a feeling the rants begin.
The discussion between libraries and publishers about eBooks is one that will always be ongoing. Now we all know that the disconnect has been there for some time, not surprising, at least if you have been paying attention for the last decade or more. This isn’t a blame game, it’s no one entities fault, it’s actually everyones fault. Nobody wanted to admit it, at least not in the open. They kept pushing policies, trying things out, complaining about each other, but nobody has really said, “Hey, we don’t have a clue.” Now this isn’t one sided, this is all sides.
Having worked with libraries all over the U.S., on all levels, all types for well over a decade, I can honestly say this isn’t a surprise the disconnect exists. I’m also not siding on anyones side… not because I don’t surport anyone, but because in all honesty, it’s both sides fault. Now neither will admit that, neither will step up and say, “Yes, we know were disconnected from the reality that exists, how do we fix it?” That day happens, someone call me, I’ll buy a round for the first one to do so at a conference some time. The problem is easy, everyone finds it easier to complain or pass the blame around. Nobody wants to say they screwed up or give in, that sign of weakness thing. They’d rather take their ball home and not play with anyone.
I’ve said this for quite a few years, in order for libraries and publishers to get on the same page for eBooks and other areas, they need to remove themselves from the equation. Neither can be agnostic about the view, they don’t want to budge and they have the wrong people having the conversation. CEOs or others at pubs and head of ALA aren’t in the trenches every day, not a slam, just a point of fact. When I started selling eBooks to libraries many asked the same question, how do I use this with my kindle? Know why they asked that, that’s all they knew, kindle, amazon, it was ridiculous, who wants to read a textbook on a kindle e-ink? You know who, NOBODY, zero, zilch, nada, not a single student. That’s not me saying it, it was every librarian who asked me that question who I went back to and discussed it with afterwards.
What many people don’t think about is that a one size fits all approach to eBooks for libraries doesn’t exist, can’t exist. Simple reason being that we have such a variety of library types, that a single model shouldn’t exist. Also, were dealing with multitudes of content; fiction, research, articles, reference, study aides, the list goes on. You cannot say this will work for all, when you think this way you ultimately lose sight of the purpose of the library and the patrons using it, no matter the type of library you are.
Sure we know part of the issue is license or access to the content. We also have DRM,restricting usage. Some of the fears I can understand, I said understand, not that I support them. Pubs are worried libraries will take a digital copy and just let it go like wildfire. Rightfully so, I know many that would do that. Libraries think that they should only have to buy 1 of the digital copy, which is extremely odd to me, when multiple copies of a print edition is bought, why not with digital? Even if you pay more, but get unlimited access and say buy 50 copies of the eBook that is still cheaper then 50 print, why no do it? I think it’s because we have become a society where we want it cheap and we want it fast, easy and no strings attached, which is wrong. Sure some eBooks are cheaper to produce, some aren’t and their still is a return on investment that pubs want with digital. It comes quicker, but it’s still there, think of enhanced eBooks.
What I see happening is that some eBooks may not be available as eBooks themselves. Publishers may pull them back and create an app for an entity of titles, maybe by the same author or content that is the same. They do that, you’ll be buying apps instead.
Or the boycotts continue, which lets admit is a knee jerk reaction and one that won’t really solve anything. Not to mention, you have now taken content from your users, the same users that pay the taxes for you to buy the content. They are not being served, they have now lost access. Pubs need to pay attention to this and get things back on track, but everything is pretty much going to get ugly, just wait for ALA, it’ll be an interesting conference this year.
In the end what’s going to help, honest conversations, none of this we want and they want. It needs to be here’s a list from both of needs, wants, etc. Then be prepared to scrap about 50% of it and give in on that much, because there is no way that one is going to walk away with the larger percentage of their list intact, just can’t happen.
I’ve been absent for a little while, been a little crazy with work and a variety of projects. One thing I keep coming back to though is eBooks in the education market; due partly to the fact that I have sold K12 books for over a decade. I’ve sold eBooks in K12, Higher Ed, Public Libraries, I even produce and create eBooks, so anytime one of the many pubs I know starts taking about their digital plan and eBooks, I perk up, because I want to know what their approach will be. I also perk up when vendors start touting they are selling eBooks, more on that in a bit.
The biggest challenges for any library now are budget, time and buying the right type of content, whether that be in print or digital. What I am seeing and have been in all ed markets has been the push of eBooks but being sold as PDF, which in all honesty, isn’t really an eBook. Sure you can put it into a reader platform, usual adobe digital editions and dress it up pretty, as many vendors are currently doing for K-12, but that doesn’t make it an eBook. Even when I sold them that way, I knew the better models were there, ePub and mobi. The thing is, once you put your content into a web environment, especially for K-12, you are more aligned with databases then you are eBooks. This is due to the nature of the content being in that environment and that is fine, but you see way too many companies, from follett to mackin to others touting eBooks, when what they are selling, is a pdf version, often static of a print book. Some times there are bells and whistles, but not often. I won’t get into B&T’s blio since it seems to pretty much have failed and nobody does anything with it really, even though they say pubs are, I haven’t found any that even know of it or use it.
Now I’m not trying to slam anyone here, I give them credit for trying, although they are late to the game and many including myself told them this 2-4 years ago, but we were just looked at with blank stares or like we were lunatics. What I want is for every librarian and teacher in K-12 to think about; are you just being shown the shiny new toy in one hand and blocked from the truth that’s being hidden in the other hand? I challenge you to ask your vendors and push the publishers you work with to come up with better models, especially in nonfiction and fiction. Really look at the vendors and see if they actually know what they are even talking about as well or did they just jump on a bandwagon and join the crowd. I only pointed out a few vendors above, not throw them to the wolves, but if that happens, so be it, but there are more and more vendors out there selling the same way. The point is to question, always ask a question, find someone from the company or hell, probably someone outside of the companies to ask about this, hire them for your district on a short-term contract basis to advise you on your libraries digital strategy, it’ll be money well spent to have someone who will be straightforward and honest with you. Also, connect with others and see what they are doing, people such as Buffy Hamilton who I know, she’s done some interesting things with her library.
If you’ve had a good or bad experience with someone, share it, no censor here, unless your rant goes completely crazy, then I’ll have to step in mildly.
So much of the conversation for the past week or two has been about HarperCollins implementing a limitation of 26 checkouts before an eBook is considered used up and you need to purchase a new one. Now many people have chimed in with some great thoughts, views and ideas and that’s awesome, that’s exactly what is needed. Check out Guy Gonzalez or any of the others or heck, just jump on twitter and follow the #hcod hashtag to follow along. Now I’m someone who has worked in the library world for many years, well over a decade now and that’s not counting all the other publishing gigs I have held. So I know libraries, I understand them, I’ve worked with them in sales roles, consulting roles and as advocates for them, understanding workflows, especially when it comes to digital offerings. I believe strongly in libraries and librarians and I also understand the business side of things. Now before you get crazy on me, here what I have to say. Publishers, trade publishers are scared of eBooks. They feel they cannibalize sales, take away from print sales and drive down profits. All understandable items, no profits means no new material means no publisher means the library has no new content or support for content they have acquired or subscribe to. This all makes sense from a business standpoint and I know authors that are just as worried as well. What this comes from is a lack of knowledge and understanding of both sides. Libraries want it to work a certain way and they want it to be the same as others or at least as manageable as other content, I get it, I agree, the reality is that it won’t be so, especially for the trade market. Now if we are talking academic or reference/research content as eBooks, well, that’s a different story and that is figured out, but that content is unique and we cannot, cannot put a square peg into a round hole, just won’t work for trade content. Continue reading
Publishing is a business like any other, it has its ups and downs, sometimes more so than others. However, I wholeheartedly believe that it will succeed and not only succeed but I see a change coming in the very near future. Now this isn’t merely a post to appease to publishers, far from it… they’ve done some stupid things in the past and probably will again, that’s the way things work. Yet, I can’t help but be optimistic about its future and what is coming. For a little background I’ve been in publishing in a variety of roles, majority of it sales, for almost 15 years now both in the retail area and in the education market working with every library imaginable. I’ve seen a lot, both good and bad, but who doesn’t in any industry?
The reasons I see publishing succeeding is that we have a variety of passionate people out there that are trying to make a change whether the publishers want it or not. That’s awesome, we need those people, I’d lump myself into that category… although I don’t have a lot of pull, I’m still passionate about it, because of what publishing means, can mean and why we need it, to keep stories, history, knowledge around. I like the internet as much as anyone else, but we all have to admit, the info is only as good as the source and a lot of times, it’s pretty crappy. When I said there are passionate and vocal people out there in publishing, I’m not kidding.
In fact, here’s a list, now it’s not extensive and if you feel I left someone out, tell me and I’ll add them… I didn’t compile a list simply for the fact that it could be a post within itself. The industry needs to see who is busting their ass to save it and keep it going and make sure that it changes directions when it needs to. The biggest fail that any publisher can do is to not hire passionate people who love books, the printed word, the digital word and those that think so far out of the box it scares the hell out of you. Publishers need to do this, they need to find these people, hire them, pay them well.. this is key, you get what you pay for, pay lower and those with the high talent either won’t want to work with you or will not be as great at their job as they could be. What’s the problem with that, pay someone well and show them you believe in their worth and what they do, its common sense really.
I’d love to do a list of everyone but it might be easier to say follow the people who are on twitter #DBW hastag, or #ePrdctn or #ISBNhour. Follow these conversations and many more like them and you’ll see who they are that have a passion for the publishing industry. Follow me on twitter and you’ll find many of these innovators and optimists, I follow them, you might want to as well.
Now the reasons that publishing will survive thrive are tied to these people or those like them. People that want to turn the tanker of publishing around and are trying to find ways to do it that aren’t just to make a quick buck but that build sustainability and allow for growth year over year which is necessary. Publishers need to take chances and let those that have the unique views run with ideas and concepts, you never know what might happen. Too many times, the bean counters are running pub houses; which influences editing, acquiring materials and so on, it shouldn’t be that way, you need people who say I love publishing in all of its facets and let’s shake things up. Granted that big tanker of publishing is slow-moving, but you have to start somewhere and realize that if you are afraid to try it, then you should try it… because sitting by and doing the same old thing time after time and not having any results, that’s just crazy people, not the good kind of crazy, the other kind. eBooks are one way out, we also have apps now and transmedia, an ever developing model and the list goes on. There are options, we don’t need to say only this way or that way, why not try them all or experiment with them and see what works for your company or project. Let the innovators do their thing…innovate and come up with ideas, no matter how batty they may sound, ingenuity and creativity more than ever now needs to be at the forefront and publishers, customers and everyone involved needs to have a voice. All of these items I mention are what will keep publishing going, keep it creating and make it successful.
What are your thoughts though? Digital Book World has asked this many times, where do you see publishing going? What are you afraid of? What excites you? Who excites you in publishing? Find these ideas, concepts, people, companies and talk to them, listen, watch and take away an idea. Publishing isn’t dead, it’s in a fun house of mirrors trying to find its way out, so why not crack a few mirrors and maybe help show the way. If you don’t agree, tell me what you think are the reasons it will fail if you believe so or what do you see it needs to do to thrive and keep going.
So the web, twitter and it seemed like everyone in publishing and those not in it were talking a lot about Google Editions which is to come by end of year. Google Editions has some nice features and offers. Offline reading, which should just be standard, accessible from anything with a browser, very smart and hosted in the cloud. Now this is a very smart move, this helps take away the whole device issue and moves to what I have stated for the past couple years but others as well, that eBooks need to be device agnostic. No matter what you are using you can get to the eBook from anywhere, google may very well achieve this. Yet, there is one little hiccup, what about those people who want the actual eBook file, ePub, pdf or other format? Hosted in the cloud means no file to worry about, but I see some areas where they may want to have access to the file itself. Supposedly google will allow for an archival version to be downloaded and have to use for personal use, but let’s be real, will the rules be followed. I’ve also seen it may be only the PDF version and may have DRM on it, even if you choose no DRM to be applied. So the question here is what’s the deal, hopefully I’ll know more as I am actually asking them this question because it seems odd if you can have ePub but the archive version might be pdf, kind of defeats the purpose.
Google Editions also mentioned that format only matters in how they accept it and how they use on the backend but not for downloading. It’s weird.. send us ePub, but it won’t matter because you access online, ok… I guess. By no means am I slamming google, they are trying to approach the problem that is plaguing everyone, device snowstorm, which to choose, which to develop for and how to go about it. When you think about it, makes sense for google to work with ePub, it’s the defacto standard, people are designing for it, I know I am, so it’s a workflow ability where everything can flow easier. I look forward to seeing what becomes of google editions but mostly, will it actually launch come the start of 2011? Who knows, it could change again, maybe it’ll be like Microsoft’s courier and shutdown. I do know that people want eBooks, they want them the way they want them and they want them as soon as possible. They don’t want to wait, they barely want to pay the prices on them, which are much lower than the current hardcovers, that’s another blog topic.
I see Google Editions doing well, initially it’ll do great, it makes sense, largest search and discoverability engine, whether you like them or not, you need to jump onto it if you are an author or smaller pub and want your eBooks seen. It’ll be interesting to see how metadata plays out with it and how well it works for libraries? The ed market is watching this closely, they want to see what will their patrons/students be able to do with google editions, how will it affect eBook lending? If the archival version is the only version available to download and Google will be checking IP’s, which is how they will handle authentication apparently, so no passing your username and password to others, they’ll have to look at how they work with the ever-changing ed market. As libraries have stated loudly, the models out there are not ideal, so what will google’s be if any at all? All we can do now is sit and wait, see what happens and how well the platform, which it still is, is implemented and used and what the naysayers and google fanatics have to say.